Closing the Local Opportunity Gap

May 8, 2024

The Tech Interactive’s STEM Pathways Committee in Action

In Silicon Valley, ensuring equitable access to STEM education and careers is a top priority. Leading this effort is The Tech Interactive's STEM Pathways Committee, comprising nearly 50 members from various sectors such as industry, higher education, K-12 education, and non-profit organizations. Together, we work to bridge opportunity gaps and empower local youth to thrive in the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

For the last few years we’ve been focused on piloting career exploration resources, experiences and events with local youth who have the least access to STEM education and pathway connections.

What exactly is The Tech’s STEM Pathways Committee, and what sets it apart? In essence, it serves as a beacon of hope, spearheading initiatives aimed at providing invaluable resources, experiences, and events to underserved youth in the region. Since its inception in 2018, the committee has been laser-focused on piloting innovative solutions to foster career exploration among those who have historically had limited access to STEM education and pathway connections.

One of the driving forces behind the committee's success lies in its collaboration with key partners who share a common vision of creating a more inclusive and diverse STEM ecosystem. This work is made possible by individuals who are willing to take the extra time to co-chair a work group.

Rebecca Balster

Ocala STEAM Academy STEAM Teacher
Career Exploration Prototyping Work Group Co-Chair

Ocala STEAM Academy logo

Rebecca Balster, a phenomenal math and STEAM teacher at Ocala STEAM Academy, is a shining example of the impact one individual can have in shaping young minds. As a Tech Academies alumna from its founding cohort, she has not only excelled in her own education but has also generously given back by coaching for an additional five summers. The lessons she has developed during her time at Tech Academies such as "Design for Dexterity," "Save the Fruit," and "May Day on Mars," are not only educational but also captivating, igniting students' passion for learning. 

Since the inception of The Tech Interactive's STEM Pathways Committee in 2018, Rebecca has been a steadfast member, demonstrating her early commitment to its mission of empowering local youth in STEM fields. As a co-chair of two working groups focused on project mentoring and prototyping career exploration resources since 2022, she continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the committee's initiatives. With over 17 years of experience impacting the lives of 1100 students at Ocala STEAM Academy, Rebecca's dedication and passion for education are truly commendable. It came as no surprise that when a staff member visited an event recently at her school, a student declared that Ms. Balster was her favorite teacher!

Lauren Foote

Synopsys Outreach Foundation Chief Executive Officer
Impactful Events Work Group Co-Chair

Synopsys Outreach Foundation logo

Lauren Foote, the Chief Executive Officer of the Synopsys Outreach Foundation, is a driving force behind impactful STEM initiatives in the East San Jose community. Serving as the co-chair of the Impactful Events Work Group within The Tech Interactive's STEM Pathways Committee since 2021, Lauren brings her expertise and passion for science education. 

The Synopsys Outreach Foundation organizes and coordinates the annual sciencepalooza!, a hands-on science event held at San Jose State University, which draws hundreds of families each year. With meticulous attention to detail, Lauren and her team ensure that every aspect of the event, from logistics to volunteer support, runs smoothly. This year's sciencepalooza! saw participation from 200 partners, volunteers, and staff, reaching over 500 East San Jose family members. As the Synopsys Outreach Foundation celebrates 25 years of providing STEM opportunities to students and families, Lauren's dedication continues to inspire and empower the next generation of innovators. We encourage you to follow these links to learn more about Synopsys Outreach Foundation and sciencepalooza!

Dana Richards

Santa Clara County Office of Education College and Career Pathway Coordinator

Santa Clara County Office of Education

Dana Richards is a valued member of The Tech Interactive's STEM Pathways Committee. Joining the committee in 2021, Dana quickly rose to the role of co-chair from 2022 to 2023, demonstrating his commitment to advancing STEM education and career pathways. One of his most notable contributions includes sponsoring sustainable career exploration field trips at The Tech, offering immersive experiences for teens to explore sustainable careers. These field trip experiences, (new offerings you can look forward to booking in 2024-2025 school year!), aim to engage students in career exploration reflection activities and visit The Tech Interactive to explore sustainable careers as civil engineers and environmental technicians.

Career Field Trip Opportunity:

Are you a Santa Clara County CTE teacher interested in a sponsored sustainable career exploration field trip for up to 50 CTE students in the 2024-2025 school year? Add your contact info to to be considered for 1 of 6 spots! Spots are limited and available on a first come, first serve basis! 

Don't miss this chance to inspire and empower the next generation of environmental leaders!

Learn more about Santa Clara County Office of Education’s College and Career Pathways Program


Learn More About the STEM Pathways Committee

Our committee members partner to develop STEM career exploration tools like our 8 Elements of STEM Preparation, which summarizes critical skills and experiences informed by industry and education standards. 

Want to learn more from our committee members, get a sneak peak at draft tools and vote on which new career exploration tools we publish?

Sign up to attend our STEM Pathways Committee Share-Out on June 3, 2024.

Deadline to register: May 20, 2024